40

Shimokitazawa

S intro3

 

So, you’ve heard of Harajuku right? The place where young Japanese do extreme dress-up? Okay, well, this week I thought we wouldn’t go there (too famous) – but somewhere that I’d heard was a Harajuku-lite. Hip but more relaxed. A neighbourhood in western Tokyo called Shimokitazawa, or Shimokita as the locals call it.

While I knew we wouldn’t find grown men in onesies or gothic lolitas there, I thought at least we’d see some dress-up. But no. Maybe we missed it. Because Shimokita seemed more cozy and kawaii (cute) than anything else, its narrow car-free alleys filled with a fairly ordinary mix of people hanging out at the independent cafes, vintage clothing shops and tiny bars and eateries.

Pretty amazing considering it’s just 10 minutes by train from the skyscrapers and madness of Shinjuku.

Let’s wander…

 

Part 1: Food and drinkies in Shimokita

As I mentioned, the neighbourhood is dotted with bars, cafes, restaurants. My favourite bar was the one where Tony Montana was at. No, not that Tony Montana (Al Pacino, Scarface, 1983). This Tony Montana…

 

 

everyone stands at a stand-up bar - that's Tony, on the right

everyone stands at a stand-up bar – that’s Tony, on the right

 

 

 

 

mushrooms and chook on the grill

mushrooms and chook on the grill

 

 

 

 

hey, hello, anyone?

hey, hello, anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

Tony was there with his owner, Kawabata. I asked Kawabata what he liked about living in Shimokita – he said, “It’s exciting”. (Or at least I think that’s what he said. Kawabata, if you’re reading this and I just misquoted you, please let me know.)

 

 

what? I'm hungry

what? I’m hungry

 

 

 

 

finally

finally

 

 

 

 

Given how many rules there are in Tokyo, I’m sure there’s one that says – No dog, including one named after a famous American actor, is allowed to eat at a bar. But this is Shimokita – chill.

There are lots of cute dogs in the neighbourhood – like this one…

 

 

let's call her Fluffy

let’s call her Fluffy

 

 

 

 

…. but really, Tony Montana was the best.

 

 

in their own worlds

in their own worlds

 

 

 

 

Aside from the bars, the main food focus in the neighbourhood seemed to be on fish and noodles.

 

 

fish, fresh and dried

fish, fresh and dried

 

 

 

 

let's get a taxi, this thing weighs a tonne

let’s get a taxi, this thing weighs a tonne

 

 

 

 

where would Japan be without its noodles?

where would Japan be without its noodles?

 

 

 

 

noodles in the making

noodles in the making

 

 

 

 

As for cafes, my favourite was this one, with a small photography gallery out the back and a very sweet barista, Susumu…

 

 

Ballon D'essai

Ballon D’essai

 

 

 

 

Susumu

Susumu

 

 

 

 

thank you Yoshida!

thank you Yoshida!

 

 

 

 

Part 2: On the main street

We met all sorts of people…

 

 

the inspiration for his hair do? - Teruaki

the inspiration for his hair do? – Teruaki

 

 

 

 

tradition

tradition

 

 

 

 

Kaede

French-ish – Kaede

 

 

 

 

half Dutch, half Japanese - Yuzuki and Luca

half Dutch, half Japanese – Yuzuki and Luca

 

 

 

 

Shunto

Shunto

 

 

 

 

There are few cars around but occasionally you see the odd taxi – of which I am strangely fond. Their bright colours, the lace seat covers and the impeccably dressed taxi drivers and their white gloves. Pity they cost an arm and a leg.

 

 

 

taxi!

taxi!

 

 

 

 

the smartest taxi drivers ever

the smartest taxi drivers ever

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Obsession No. 1

Lanterns. Love them. Can’t stop snapping them. Especially when combined with gleefully happy two year old Mei.

 

 

hanging out with grandpa - Fukai and Mei

hanging out with grandpa – Fukai and Mei

 

 

 

 

fish

fish

 

 

 

 

the kiss

the kiss

 

 

 

 

fun

fun

 

 

 

 

Speaking of fish and lanterns…

 

 

attracted by the light

attracted by the light

 

 

 

 

early evenings

early evenings

 

 

 

 

Part 4: House and garden

After we’d explored the main shopping area, we walked up the little hill to check out the houses. While most of them were the typical Tokyo low-rise 70s-80s kind, there was one that caught my eye – old, of course, with a traditional garden.

 

 

the garden :: 1

the garden :: 1

 

 

 

 

the garden :: 2

the garden :: 2

 

 

 

 

the garden :: 3

the garden :: 3

 

 

 

 

And I cannot ignore a nice old wall…

 

 

wall :: 1

wall :: 1

 

 

 

 

wall :: 2

wall :: 2

 

 

 

 

bows

bows

 

 

 

 

And even when there’s no space for a garden, nature still sneaks in…

 

 

windows

windows

 

 

 

 

Part 5: Autumn

One of the reasons I decided to include Tokyo in this project was I wanted to see the autumn leaves. While there aren’t many in Tokyo, I did spot a few. On trees and as well as elsewhere…

 

 

a slow reveal

a slow reveal

 

 

 

 

Inside this beautifully wrapped packaging from a shop in Shimokita was…

 

 

autumn :: 1

autumn :: 1

 

 

 

 

autumn :: 2

autumn :: 2

 

 

 

 

autumn :: 3

autumn :: 3

 

 

 

 

Japanese design is unbelievably wonderful. From their papers and fabrics to the sweets above. And these ones too…

 

 

kawaii!

kawaii!

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

When they ask young people where they most want to live in Tokyo, apparently Shimokita is one of the top choices. I can see why; it’s an incredibly relaxed and friendly little corner of Tokyo that’s minutes away from the bright lights of Shinjuku et al. I just hope it manages to hang on to its charm – just around the corner from Susumu’s hand-drawn coffees is a Starbucks. Just saying.

 

 

 

at the cat cafe

at yet another cat cafe

 

 

 

 

tea and hot chocolate

tea and hot chocolate

 

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Coco loved Shimokita. Aside from its small town charm, it had a cat cafe. A done deal really.

Now, I hope you’re still reading because I have news. Having almost not come here, Tokyo has got me firmly in its clutches. So we’re staying a few extra weeks. And, I’m so sorry if this is going to disappoint anyone, but I’m cancelling Mexico City. After Tokyo, one more big city may just do me in – well, us in actually. We’re both pretty exhausted. The kind of exhaustion that makes you feel quite odd at times and unable to move. We’ve been going at it for 11 months and it’s showing.

There’s more. You know how I’m running late – as in, I’m only up to ‘Suburb’ No 40 which means I have 12 more installments to go – but the year ends in just six weeks?

Well, the problem is, my Around the World tickets expire at the end of those six weeks. If we don’t finish by then, I’ll have to buy new tickets home. It may not sound like much but it’s just one cost too many – even with the wonderful support of my sponsors and Kickstarter supporters (hello! I love you!), this project has ended up costing me a pretty penny.

I’ve been really struggling with this for weeks. I’m so passionate about this project and so committed to making it the best possible virtual travel experience I can for you. But I just can’t take any more out of my mortgage to fund it (I know, extreme huh?).

So, here’s my solution. I’m going to do 12 ‘suburbs’ in six weeks. Ha! They’ll be shorter for sure, it may kill me, but…

And after Tokyo, we’ll finish the last few weeks in a mystery location.

If anyone has another solution (eg, know someone at Qantas who’ll extend my tickets for another month) please do tell.

I’m so sorry if you’re disappointed by any of this. But I think my plan will work out okay. It’ll just be 52 Suburbs Around the World ‘Lite’ from now on…

This suburb has been brought to you by Nirah Mattila 

See you next week – twice hopefully.

 

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